Chinese Reporter Slips Inside The Foxconn iPhone 5 Assembly Sweatshop

Chinese Reporter Slips Inside The Foxconn iPhone 5 Assembly Sweatshop

The Shanghai Evening post sent a reporter into the Foxconn factory in Tai Yuan, China to pretend he was a new worker. His 10 days at the factory has been published as a diary, exposing the inside story of making the iPhone 5.

The Tai Yuan factory is known from the March workers’ strike, in addition to needing 20,000 extra workers to fulfill orders from Apple for the new iPhone 5, which is expected to be announced tomorrow at a special Apple event in San Francisco.

According to the Shanghai Evening Post, the reporter went through an extensive seven day orientation,which includes a form that all workers must sign to state that there are no environmental hazards. He began to work on the production line for the iPhone 5 on day eight. He was only able to stay two more days, due to the poor working conditions.

After an exhaustive seven day orientation, on the eighth day of work, the reporter is sent to the TOP SECURITY AREA to work on the iPHone 5. A metal detector screens all employees, with a warning that any metal detected will result in immediate termination. The factory floor smells of plastic, and the sound of heavy manufacturing machines dominate the area. The team is warned to only do what they are told, and they should be honored to have the chance to produce the new iPhone 5.

“Our line is being assigned to use masking tapes and plastic stoppers to cover up the earphone jack and the connector ports of the back plate in order to prevent the paint from being sprayed onto it on the next process,” he writes for the Shanghai Evening Post. “I’m being assigned to mark placement points on the iPhone 5 back-plate using an oil-based paint pen. I’m being scolded many times for spilling too much oil on the markings. My roommate has being assigned to paste the masking tapes of not more than 5mm wide on the right spots that I have marked. And he has being scolded many times for pasting them too slow.”

The reporter has also been told that his job was supposed to be assigned to female workers, due to their more nimble fingers, but that Foxconn couldn’t find enough female workers to fill all the roles needed.

Chinese Reporter Slips Inside The Foxconn iPhone 5 Assembly Sweatshop

This is just where they eat.

“An iPhone 5 back-plate run through in front of me almost every 3 seconds,” he writes. “I have to pickup the back-plate and marked 4 position points using the oil-based paint pen and put it back on the running belt swiftly within 3 seconds with no errors. After such repeat action for several hours, I have terrible neckache and muscle pain on my arm. A new worker who sat opposite of me gone exhausted and laid down for a short while. The supervisor has noticed him and punished him by asking him to stand at one corner for 10 minutes like the old school days. We worked non-stop from midnight to the next morning 6 a.m but were still asked to keep on working as the production line is based on running belt and no one is allowed to stop. I’m so starving and fully exhausted.”

The reporter calculates that he must mark five iPhone 5 back plates every minute, at minimum. He has to do this non-stop for his entire shift. His goal is 3,000 iPhone 5 back plates every 5 hours.

“There are total 4 production lines in charge of this process, 12 workers in every line,” he writes. “Each line can produce 36,000 iPhone 5 back plates in half a day, this is scary … I finally stopped working at 7 a.m. We were asked to gather again after work. The supervisor shout out loud in front of us: “Who wants to rest early at 5 a.m !? We are all here to earn money ! Let’s work harder !” I was thinking who on earth wants to work two extra hours overtime for only mere 27 yuan (USD$4) !?”

These are the conditions that are in effect to produce the iPhone 5, at least at the Foxconn plant in China. Perhaps we can all think of the men and women that endure a situation that no one would tolerate here in the US when we pre-order our new iPhone 5 devices over the next couple of days.

  • premonition2386

    Wow, this is crazy.

  • Alexander530

    Well at least they have jobs. They can always quit you know.

  • RaptorOO7

    The only thing the consumers who are buying the iP5 are willing to do is stand in line to get it on launch day. The reporter hit the mark perfectly, todays consumers would never work in those conditions let alone ever consider NOT buying the iPhone knowing this is how they are produced. Humans just don’t care what it takes to get their prized possessions.

    I would have no issue paying more, or perhaps Apple should make less profit and pay more to build the phones in less draconian working conditions. It’s easy to say this is Foxconn’s fault but Apple can no longer claim they know nothing about it.

  • Tallest_Skil

    Blah blah, “iPhone 5″, blah blah, “iPhone 5″, blah blah, “iPhone 5″, blah blah, “iPhone 5″, blah blah, “iPhone 5″, blah blah, “iPhone 5″, blah blah, “iPhone 5″…

    Useless trash piece designed to get the most hits by saying “iPhone 5″ as many times as possible to jam it into SEO.

    Screw the idiocy behind the writing, screw the lies and slant, and screw the fact that Apple is the only company anyone ever investigates. Worthless hypocrites.

  • akash trivedi

    this is not new in developing countries. its actually much better than regular factories i have seen (not in us of course).. its pathetic to see media focusing only on apple..

  • avonord

    Putting a white collar into a blue collar’s shoe? Of couse it isn’t easy.

  • Bobby Morgan

    I love how all of these Foxconn pieces always target Apple, and make impassioned cries to boycott Apple. Where is the same vigor in going after the other companies that use Foxconn for manufacturing like Acer, Amazon, Cisco, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola Mobility, Nintendo, Nokia, Samsung Electronics, Sony, Toshiba, and Vizio. Does Foxconn have different work standards for their other major customers? I think not! If you are going to write a hack piece, at least be fair and provide all the facts.

  • Rob LeFebvre

    Useless trash piece designed to get the most hits by saying “iPhone 5″ as many times as possible to jam it into SEO.

    Screw the idiocy behind the writing, screw the lies and slant, and screw the fact that Apple is the only company anyone ever investigates. Worthless hypocrites.

    Thanks for the opinion, but I really didn’t write this with SEO in mind. :)

  • Rob LeFebvre

    I love how all of these Foxconn pieces always target Apple, and make impassioned cries to boycott Apple. Where is the same vigor in going after the other companies that use Foxconn for manufacturing like Acer, Amazon, Cisco, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola Mobility, Nintendo, Nokia, Samsung Electronics, Sony, Toshiba, and Vizio. Does Foxconn have different work standards for their other major customers? I think not! If you are going to write a hack piece, at least be fair and provide all the facts.

    Really? I’m reporting on this reporters diary. I’m sure other companies use similar or worse factories, but this is an Apple-centric site with a new iPhone coming out tomorrow. Hack? I dunno. I guess I disagree.

  • Greg

    @Bobby: This is an Apple focused blog…it would be silly to expect a report about Vizio manufacturing practices.

    @Raptor007: Steve Jobs said (presumible Tim Cook as well) Apple would be happy to have manufacturing plants here in the US, but government regulations and excessive taxation prevent those jobs from being here. I’m sure the regulations he was referring to was not removing safeguards against inhumane employment practices, but mandatory incentives such as insurance, affirmative action, pensions, risk of union suits and the like. Like Alexander530 said, they are free to quit. No one is forcing them to work there…better yet, it’s not slave labor. @Tallest_Skil you must be a Ballmer fan. Why do you interact so much with this site if you hate everything so much? Piss….go read the Google blog or something.

  • Gavin Blur

    What a load of crap in this headline – who says this is a sweat shop!
    I’d work there if I needed to make money – hell I sit here all day trying to make money so whats the difference!

  • Tallest_Skil

    @Tallest_Skil you must be a Ballmer fan. Why do you interact so much with this site if you hate everything so much? Piss….go read the Google blog or something.

    There’s not a single reason you could possibly have to say this.

  • Bernie

    You want an example of an Anti Apple person ?? Go no further call Ron Lefebvre. Obviously this guy has always been a white collar worker. He thinks than only in that factory people work like that ?? I can take him to several USA factories !!! Besides, they can leave anytime they one, nobody is putting a gun in their heads.

  • Cortney Sauk

    It’s interesting reading everyone’s comments on this. (some are worthwhile, others not so much)

    As for WHY do reports focus on Apple, I would think that it’s because of the very high demand Apple puts on it’s suppliers for the number of devices it requires and the short time in which it requires them. (we can all look at ourselves for the demand part…) Although other companies use Foxconn, I’m sure none of them have the requirements, demands and volume that Apple do. Thus rules are bent, times are trimmed and demands on employees are increased for Apple above all others.

    For those of you mentioning that they can quite, I would disagree. Most, if not all of these people live in Foxconn provided housing, and eat Foxconn provided meals. I would also assume that they are indebted to Foxconn for these same things. To quite, would most likely mean they would have to pay Foxconn back for certain things or be completely kicked out onto the street, homeless and moneyless. Assuming China does not have Employment Insurance, these people would probably starve to death…

    Having been to China, I would say the people that work at Foxconn, most likely have no other choice… Kinda like some of the people who work at Walmart. ;)

  • Commonman

    Hey Rob, as a teenager I used to work at a men’s suit factory in Scranton, PA. I had to manually line up about 40 cut patterns of the left side of mens’ jacket, then crank a blade cutter to make the hole for the Handkerchief pocket. 10 hours a day, pile the cloth down, crank, move then repeat. I often got scolded for not doing as many as I should and God forbid if I cut the hole off skew. I lived for the break/lunch bells like Pavlov’s dog, day in and day out. Guess what? I didn’t HAVE to do this but I needed the money and someone would have taken my position in a heartbeat. I think the key phrase in this article is..”his job was supposed to be assigned to female workers, due to their more nimble fingers, but that Foxconn couldn’t find enough female workers…”

    To give credence to this lazy ass reporters dramatic diary does a disservice to all those people willing to “work” for their money. If you like I can also tell you about my days as a Paper Boy at the age of 12, carrying 130 newspapers on my route. Sunday’s in the winter were really rough. How about my time as a dishwasher for a Hotel.

    I now make plenty of money doing what I want to do but it wasn’t all roses and perfume. I really don’t feel sorry for this “reporter” and his “expose`”. I do feel sorry for the people that feel a need to regurgitate this kind of pabulum and consider it newsworthy.

  • John Frum
    I love how all of these Foxconn pieces always target Apple, and make impassioned cries to boycott Apple. Where is the same vigor in going after the other companies that use Foxconn for manufacturing like Acer, Amazon, Cisco, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola Mobility, Nintendo, Nokia, Samsung Electronics, Sony, Toshiba, and Vizio. Does Foxconn have different work standards for their other major customers? I think not! If you are going to write a hack piece, at least be fair and provide all the facts.

    Really? I’m reporting on this reporters diary. I’m sure other companies use similar or worse factories, but this is an Apple-centric site with a new iPhone coming out tomorrow. Hack? I dunno. I guess I disagree.

    Rob, the “you” in Bobby’s comment isn’t necessarily a targeted “you,” but a generic one, aimed at whomever writes such an article. Don’t take things so personally. It’s not all about *you*…you know?

    The caption below the photo of the lunchroom belies the author’s intent, and bias. We can assume the photo was taken so as to capture as many of the diners as possible, as is standard photographic practice (why would you capture fewer?). To think, this is just where they eat! Oh, the horror!

    Frankly, it’s not much different from the lunch room at the high school I attended. Not once did it occur to me to complain about it.

  • FragilityG4
    I love how all of these Foxconn pieces always target Apple, and make impassioned cries to boycott Apple. Where is the same vigor in going after the other companies that use Foxconn for manufacturing like Acer, Amazon, Cisco, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola Mobility, Nintendo, Nokia, Samsung Electronics, Sony, Toshiba, and Vizio. Does Foxconn have different work standards for their other major customers? I think not! If you are going to write a hack piece, at least be fair and provide all the facts.

    Really? I’m reporting on this reporters diary. I’m sure other companies use similar or worse factories, but this is an Apple-centric site with a new iPhone coming out tomorrow. Hack? I dunno. I guess I disagree.

    Bobby’s comment may not be right for this site, as you said this is an Apple-Centric site, however his comments do resonate to the bigger picture. All the mainstream media seem to jump all over these Foxconn stories as a way to either get their outlet noticed by affiliating it with the Apple name since it carries a level of cachet or simple to smear a successful/popular company. From what I read this certainly does not qualify for a sweat shop. The guy was not beaten, he was compensated (Not much but what do other Chinese companies offer in wages?) he was not forced to stay all night (offered over time if he did) and when he wanted to quit he was not killed. This guy/newspaper is just like Mike Daisey … just trying to use the Apple name in order to make his known.

  • LTMP

    I spent a summer doing piecework assembly. The pay was horrible and the work was almost unbearable. I live in Canada.

    This is what assembly work is like all over the world.

  • Atienne

    ALSO having spent much time in China building factories to make american products…. IF it wasn’t the iPhone, it would be the wiring harness on your car, or you refrigerator, or your TV, or your toaster. Get over it ALL of China is like that. I saw people standing on cement floors for 8 hours per day using peg-boards to assemble wiring harnesses. Everything you have is assembled like that. People just want to pick on apple because they are the current big fish.

About the author

Rob LeFebvreAnchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre is Cult of Mac's Culture Editor. He has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef

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